Back to The Front!!!!
After a three year hiatus Vanguard Sound! returns to the act of releasing records with Amir Alexander’s
“The Masquerade EP”.
A four track EP with a cut for every dance-floor scenario.
Soulful, bluesy House. The deepest of Deep House. Epic late late night Micro-House (Berlin Minimal). And Classic “Vanguard Sound!” Modern “Jacking” Chicago House.
“The Masquerade!” (Feat. Tim Collins)
My first official attempt at the “Soulful House” sub-genre. This track is based on the chord changes of George Benson’s “This Masquerade”.
Tim and I had discussed a possible collaboration for years. Then one day suddenly (much like all the inspiration for my creative pursuits come), inspiration struck.
“Why not do a remake of a classic by a guitar virtuoso?” And like that, I set about making a track based on the changes of Big Brother George’s OG.
Upon the completion of a basic rough mix, I linked it to Tim. When he found the time, he traveled to a very nice pro studio to have them engineer and record an improv session.
Tim did a single take of improvised riffs . Jamming to the track I sent him. Then sent me back the results.
After which I set about editing down his seven minute jam; taking the sections I felt best fit my overall vision.
The results of which are what can now be heard on the final cut, and official release.
In keeping with the original; a Jazz improvised number, I decided to “take a solo” myself.
In order to compliment the “organic” sound of Tim’s steel string acoustic guitar, I chose the legendary Hammond B-3 organ to perform my solo with. And with the magic of midi, alongside my production skills. I was able to get the sounds inside my head out of it. As midi allows one to record a performance a bit slower then bring it up to speed. It also allows for the correction of missed notes, and rhythmic hiccups. Thus giving the impression that I am a much better keyboardist that I currently am (full disclosure).
Although, I do indeed plan to build upon my rudimentary piano playing skills by taking lessons online from Tim (who is a professional piano and guitar teacher) as soon as my meager survival budget allows me the funds to do so.
Never am I content to just cruise and plateau with regard to my artistry in any of it’s manifestations; this particular track sees me “setting the bar higher” and stepping outside of my comfort zone to advance my skill-set as a musician, producer, writer, and arranger, etc.
I also seek to become a better keyboardist and better performer as well.
“Freaks of The Deep!”
A track that single-handedly got me booked to open Circo Loco’s ADE party in October 2017.
Antonio loved it so much he asked me to send him an mp3 to listen to, and then booked me for their ADE party after I premiered it that summer in the main room to stunning effect.
I sat on this track and kept it as an exclusive secret weapon for years until I could find the perfect label to release it on.
Since I am a “slept on” (grossly underrated in the opinions of the many die hard supporters who’ve told me this) artist already, it made sense to me at the time to seek to release this track on a label with a profile as large a possible.
Try as I might, this did not happen. Despite every label I submitted it to absolutely loving it.
After the third ‘thanks but no thanks” from some highly esteemed label heads, the idea began to brew in the back of my mind that I would re-launch Vanguard Sound! with it. And this is exactly what I’ve done.
Based upon the initial sales of what amounts to a “free” EP, this track will also be slept on. But at least it’s existence, is known and the track is undeniably “thorough” regardless as to whether it is ignored by the scene at large or not.
To quote David Byrne of The Talking Heads….. “Same as it ever was”.
I am quite pleased with my un-celebrated “cult hero” status within the deepest and truest trenches of the international underground dance music culture, and or scene.
“Blessed Are The Meek!” (Amir’s Zero Dark Thirty Epic)
The track that is now a certified modern classic and Panorama Bar anthem is now reiterated in epic fashion.
Written during the same sessions at the end of 2019 that spawned the two tracks that will be on my next vinyl release on Chiwax. (A “Blessed Are The Meek” remix EP. More on that in a later post).
When I made this last, and definitive end all be all version; I was inspired by my track Catacombs 2 from my “Wisdom” EP. Which is my most recent vinyl release.
(Out and for sale now on Thomas Melchior’s My king is light label).
Deep, dark, heady, late-night, minimalist Micro-House is the aesthetic. Much in the spirit of the Berlin school of all things Micro and Minimal.
Once again wishing to grow as an artist and step outside of (and or expand) my comfort zone; I set about creating a hypnotic seventeen minute “epic” mental, emotional, and physical workout aimed squarely at the late, late night/early morning after hours dance-floor.
“Blessed Are The Meek!” has such an interesting, and seemingly unending story. And this track (at least for now) is the final chapter in what is now it’s fourth summer of dance-floor relevance.
I feel truly “blessed” to have been chosen to be the “vessel” by which this certified modern classic was brought into the world.
Built around an insanely funny vocal by a woman who prefers a small penis she can dominate, versus being “subdued” by a large one; the final track of the EP is already a “cult classic” among the truest of true fans of Vanguard Sound!
Completed five years ago, and only appearing on a single podcast of some of my unreleased and exclusive tracks; Dick Pilates was requested several times during my “Love and Fear” album tour that took me all over Australia, on to Ibiza, and then to New York and Washington DC back in the summer of 2015.
Seemingly lost to the “memory hole” until now. This track was also a super exclusive “secret weapon” for years.
Now with a full re-engineering and mix-down (while keeping the OG “original” Vanguard Sound! aesthetic the heads have come to know and love), D.P. is now available for all who would like to posses it. For the first time ever. Exclusively on my Band-Camp page. As are the other three tracks on the EP.
In fact, they shall remain exclusively available only on the Vanguard Sound! Band-Camp page.
To be completely shunned and ignored because one’s work destroys “the bell curve” and challenges the “status quo” by definition is the very essence of what true underground is. Those who know, know well. Those who do not know, know not due to the lack of “press coverage”. And NOT due to a lack of creativity, and or quality.
100% pure independent true “Underground” House and Techno. With zero support and or exposure from the “mainstream” dance music media outlets.
As being called underground, and functioning as the underground are two entirely different things.
A few words about being content with being ignored and my truly underground underground status within the international scene……
Yes…. I too am human, and bleed red blood like everyone else. I actually do have feelings. I simply work diligently to control them. Versus them controlling me. My “hard as nails” stoic persona is no act. Ask anyone who really knows me.
It is a basic survival necessity. Being a true “artist”, versus being a “talented performer” in this “slippery”, shark tank music industry is a loveless, thankless life. Especially when you are an artist who is both loved AND (truly) hated for the exact same things.
Truth be told, I have in the past completed various projects and felt quite “proud” of my accomplishments. (Though a few years ago, I “canceled” (LOL!) pride in my life. Now I only seek to be “satisfied” with my work.)
Being a “true student” of this art-form, I am quite fortunate to be able to “gauge” my work with ice cold objectivity. Meaning, it doesn’t matter if I made it. I look at the best who ever did it, and then seek to equal, or hopefully supersede the level/quality of their work in order to truly “advance” the art-form(s), and “enrich” the culture (as should be done if a form is to truly advance), but I think that this mentality is likely rare.
In the past, I felt quite slighted. In that I knew for a fact that my work was “good work” yet my earnings were meager at best. I have been, and still am literally “shunned” by the press. If not completely ignored.
Before I “mastered” my emotions, this hurt me greatly.
These days it makes me laugh. Knowing what a joke the whole “name game” popularity contest that is the nucleus of who gets “shine”, and who gets “shade” from the press.
I now overstand that I simply DO NOT fit the narrative. Not in my musical home-town of Chicago. Nor within the international “community”. There simply is not box shaped like me. Thus I cannot be easily put into one.
THIS is the life of a “truly gifted artist”; versus the life of a “talented performer”.
Your life will not be easy. You will be hungry. Poverty will be the rule and NOT the exception……….
You will have a very tiny core of beloved people (some say fans of your work) who actually recognize your contributions to the art-form that they love so much.
As there is something that you did/will do that truly touches/touched their very hearts and souls.
The exact same way some of my most cherished artists touched mine.
And THIS is why you must do it. THIS and this alone. Sacrificing your life and the potential to have a a very lucrative “normal job”. Wasting your talents and intellectual gifts for a “pipe dream”, as it were.
So back to the press and being objective about one’s work…..
If one IS of the proclivity to be their worst critic; along with being gifted skills and abilities of the highest order. They must then work as though their very lives depended upon doing so.
And with no recognition. Fully aware that the closer they come to fulfilling their potential, the wider the gulf of perception, and the more “irregular” the box to put one in must be.
The gift (once again), is the curse.
These days I am quite content at setting an unbelievably high bar for myself, “leveling up” and then raising it. Just like “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”.
The book tells the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a seagull who is bored with daily squabbles over food. Seized by a passion for flight, he pushes himself and learns everything he can about flying. His increasing unwillingness to conform finally results in his expulsion from the flock. Now an outcast, he continues to learn, becoming increasingly pleased with his abilities while leading a peaceful and happy life.
One day Jonathan meets two gulls who take him to a “higher plane of existence” in which there is no heaven, but a better world found through perfection of knowledge. There he meets another seagull who loves to fly. He discovers that his sheer tenacity and desire to learn make him “pretty well a one-in-a-million bird.” In this new place, Jonathan befriends the wisest gull, Chiang, who takes him beyond his previous self-education, and teaches him how to move instantaneously to anywhere else in the Universe. The secret, Chiang says, is to “begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”
So what’s the point Amir?
The point is to enjoy being an artist. In the lineage of many greats who have gone before me. Unsung heroes who managed to move people. From the inside. Heart to heart. Mind to mind. And Soul to soul.
When I would get a bit down (past tense), I would often think of Fishbone. By ALL measures, the MOST under-rated band in the world. Insanely gifted. And completely un-classifiable.
Wealth, recognition from the press, and even good fortune NEVER came to them.
No! Quite the opposite.
So when I would look at my life and career, I could see clear parallels.
And THIS gave me a bit of comfort. Especially when I was not as strong in my faith.
Over a two decade period, this “once in a lifetime” band slowly fell apart. Until only two founding members were left. As being “crapped on by the industry” surely took it’s toll. However, in the years since that lowest of low points, many of the founding members have returned (and left again more than once).
Through it all Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore have stayed true and stayed the course. For better and often for worse.
THIS is the life of a truly gifted “black artist”. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And so in closing…..
As a “truly gifted artist”, versus a very “talented performer”
I embrace the poverty life I’ve lived for the past five years. One that some of my peers fear may be their future.
But let’s hope not. As I would not wish this type of life on anyone.
It made me much stronger (along with the teachings of Christ Jesus and The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius). But for a person who is controlled by their emotions and not the other way around, this life would surely kill them.
No longer am I “waiting for the one day”
Nor must I think to myself “what would Norwood and Angelo do (or think)?”
For, I realized quite some time ago that I’ve already arrived.
And so every time I create a bit of work that has matched and or superseded the level of the artists who inspired me to do this work, I just know it, and keep it moving humbly.
A bit of praise from a true admirer means more than the wealth I shall never receive.
And the rare as “unobtainium” (LOL!) peer recognition, though greatly appreciated (never expected) is also cool. But I take it all with a grain of salt.
Either way, I seek to fly high. Then fly higher. Then higher. For me. Because I feel that I can. And for my son to prove that it can be done.
If you have been blessed with the basic foundation of “God given gifts” and a work ethic to “toil like a slave” ; all of your own volition, with no point to prove to anyone but oneself, then know…….
“The blessing is truly the curse”
THIS is MY life as an artist.
Talent hits a target most cannot hit.
Genius hits a target most cannot see.
Carry on Beloved. Have a “Blessed” day!